But your Model S might have a normal steering wheel, at least.
After Tesla decided to ditch its PR department last year, the go-to place for updates on what's new for the EV brand has been Twitter, with tidbits of information interspersed between Elon Musk's rants. The Tesla CEO and avid Twitter user dropped some interesting nuggets on social media recently pertaining to the updated Tesla Model S, including a way to alter the URL to access a hidden view on Tesla's configurator. The hidden view showed the updated Model S interior with the option to swap the controversial new yoke steering rectangle for a traditional steering wheel. But Musk also made some frightening claims about Tesla getting rid of turn signal stalks in its cars, replacing them with guesswork instead.
The URL for the alternate configurator has since been removed and now shows a "Page Not Found" error, but it's hard to believe Tesla won't offer a traditional steering wheel on the Model S refresh. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if it was standard and that the rectangular yoke won't be in production models; there are genuine safety concerns as well as practical issues in low-speed maneuvers. There's a reason a yoke-style steering device being used in a road-going vehicle is the stuff of science fiction.
That wasn't the only Tweet emanating from Musk's account, though. He also said: "No more stalks. Car guesses drive direction based on what obstacles it sees, context & nav map. You can override on [the] touchscreen."
Ignoring the low-hanging fruit of the word "guess" being used about your car deciding when to indicate for you, this idea also has safety issues. However, it's not outside the realm of possibility using predictive AI. In theory, it would be able to use data from throttle and braking inputs and GPS data to work out the difference between a driver intending to change lanes on a freeway, take an exit, turn left on a single lane highway, or pulling into a driveway. The tricky bit for consistency would be predicting maneuvers from four-way stops, traffic lights, or just pulling into traffic at a T junction. The system could have trouble activating the turn signals early enough to indicate your intentions to other drivers though.
But Musk still wasn't finished there. He also teased the idea of getting rid of the manual shifter function as well: "After you drive without using a PRND stalk/stick for a few days, it gets very annoying to go back & use a shifter!" Tesla has always created very minimalist interior designs, but by getting rid of all stalks and even a drive selector, the brand looks to continue this ethos in an even stricter manner. In all likelihood, all these functions will move to the touchscreen in the center of the car, but while this seems OK in theory, touchscreens pose a major problem in the fact that they can't be 'felt' and require eyes to be taken off the road in order to operate them properly.